Monday at sundown marks the beginning of the 8-day celebration of Passover for Jews all over the world. Passover is the holiday that celebrates the exodus of the Jewish people from Egypt and their enslavement. Because they fled Egypt in such a hurry, they did not have time to let their bread dough rise. As they walked through the desert with the bread dough on their backs, the hot sun baked the bread into a flat, cracker-like product called matzah. To commemorate this exodus, grain flour products are not eaten during Passover. Some of the forbiddens are: wheat, barley, oat, spelt or rye flour which have come in contact with water or moisture, and were not fully baked within eighteen minutes from the moment of contact. So bagels, cereal, cookies, pasta, and pizza are off limits.
Many people complain that eating all of that matzah can really weigh them down and back them up (if you know what we mean – wink, wink). The good news is that there is whole wheat matzah (and various other matzah related products) that have about 4 grams of fiber per piece. If you follow a gluten-free diet, there is now gluten-free matzah available. The main problem with this kind of matzah is that it’s made from refined GF flours, so it’s like eating a piece of white bread. Besides, matzah isn’t the only starch that can be eaten during this time – sweet potatoes, potatoes, quinoa, and amaranth are some of the other healthy starches that are acceptable. Plus, you can bake all sorts of yummy recipes using almond and coconut flours.
Passover is a great time to get back to the basics of healthy home cooking and try out a more Paleo style of eating. Fill up on lean protein and plenty of fruits and vegetables, add a little healthy fat, and let the starch take a mini vacation from your diet. You might just come out of the holiday feeling a little lighter and a lot more energized.
For some great Passover recipes, check out the following websites:
If you’re looking for some healthy alternatives to eat during the holiday, try this delicious (matazah-free) twist on lasagna.
- 1 large or 2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- 3 cups sliced mushrooms
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 can (28 oz.) tomato puree
- 1 tsp. salt-free Italian seasoning
- 1/4 cup dry red wine
- 2 tbs. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs. raw honey
- 2 cups frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 1 (15 oz.) container ricotta cheese (use low-fat or fat-free)
- 1/3 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Place eggplant on the baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Place in oven and bake 9 minutes (or until golden); flip and cook and additional 5-6 minutes. Remove and allow to cool.
- Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat until hot. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute about 5 minutes. Add the tomato puree, seasoning, and red wine. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid from the pan, add the balsamic vinegar and agave nectar and allow to cook 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Place the spinach in a fine mesh strainer and push as much water from the spinach. Set spinach aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheese.
- In an 11x7 baking dish ladle 1/3 cup sauce. Then layer in the following order: half of the eggplant, half of the spinach, half of the sauce, and half of the cheese. Repeat layers, ending with the cheese.
- Cover dish with foil and place in 350F oven and cook for 45 minutes. Remove foil and cook an additional 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool 15 minutes before serving.